At a recent family gathering, Kish and I had a mild disagreement about the scope and extent of my participation in “Indian Guides” when the kids were little. Not surprisingly, the name has now been changed, but in those days “Indian Guides” was a way for fathers and sons to do things together in the great outdoors. We chose native American names (mine, back in those pre-energy drink days of the early ’90s, was “Red Bull”), had monthly meetings with the other fathers and sons in our tribe (the Apache) and went to YMCA-sponsored campouts and other events from time to time.
Kish and I disagreed about the latter. I remembered going to a number of the campouts; she was scoffingly confident it was only two or perhaps three. I was pretty sure my recollection was correct, because activities like carving pumpkins and creating a jack o’lantern totem pole during a fall campout at Camp Oty’Okwa, sledding on a brutally cold hill during a winter campout at Camp Willson, trying to sleep in bunk beds in poorly ventilated rooms filled with coughing kids, and drinking “bug juice” at bland multi-purpose rooms in Y campgrounds throughout Ohio were burned into my memory.
Alas, Kish as able to find physical evidence to settle the dispute — my old Indian Guides vest. Embarrassingly pit-stained, and arguably the most ugly and poorly made leather garment ever created, the vest stands as a shocking testimonial to why the politically correct rightfully scream about culture appropriation. No self-respecting Apache would want to be associated with such a dismal effort at approximating Native American attire.
But in addition to being a mortifying failure, the vest provided key clues to the dispute, in the form of cheap glue-on patches that were supposed to be affixed after every campout. It displays a patch for a fall campout, and a patch for a winter campout, and a patch for participating in the Pinewood Derby, as well as to spots where other patches — undoubtedly, campout patches — fell off. The vest therefore seems to provide compelling physical evidence of attendance at four campouts.
Still, I’m taking the position that I did in fact go to more than four campouts, and the physical evidence provided by the vest is misleadingly incomplete. I think I simply stopped wearing the stupid vest because it was ugly, hot, and made me sweat uncontrollably and because, after a few years of Indian Guides, I decided it really didn’t make much of a difference whether or not I wore faux Apache garb and faithfully affixed campout patches.
And I want to issue an official apology for the vest to the entire Apache nation.